Archive for the ‘education and training’ Category

Reed, Pearson and Future: lessons in media strategy

January 8, 2020
12 magazine logos: Some of the magazine brands Future in buying from TI Media

Twelve of the 41 magazine brands Future in buying from TI Media

In my days as a media academic, I developed a case study comparing the corporate strategies of Reed International and Pearson. Their progress has been brought back to mind as I ponder what Future is planning for the 41 media brands it is buying from TI Media. These are the remnants of what used to be IPC – Britain’s ‘Ministry of Magazines’ as it was called for its massive size and bureaucracy – and one of the biggest divisions of Reed back in 1980.

At a basic level, it’s a nice little project to map TI’s list of iconic brands, against Future’s justification for the £140m purchase. What divisions would you put the purchased magazines into? And why? Notice that Future lists Country Life in both the Lifestyle and Home Interest ‘verticals’; so where should that venerable title – founded in 1897 – belong? I argued two years ago that it was one of brands being neglected under TI:

[Moving Country Life out of London into a business park] suggests a lack of investment by its owners. However, even if this penny-pinching strategy leads to a decline in Country Life‘s fortunes, its history and contacts should enable it to attract a better owner – and its history can never be taken away. If I were the editor, I’d be trying to do a management buy-out.

And what will Future do with all the yachting and boating titles – sport or lifestyle? Do the hunting and shooting titles fit Future’s skills and company ethos? Where does CelebsNow belong? That’s the digital stump of Now, all that’s left since the magazine – which had a reputation for upsetting celebrities – closed in March last year. Is it worth pushing further into the celebrity sector?

Future’s managers will no doubt be running the Boston matrix over their purchases, deciding which ones are a good fit, which stars to fund for their growth potential, and which dogs to close or sell on to companies where they are a better fit. The UK periodical publishing industry is nothing if not dynamic.

200 years of Reed and Pearson history

More at the business degree end of things, Reed and Pearson are fascinating companies and between them encompass the fortunes of a huge part of British magazine and book publishing for much of the past 150 years. They are among only 28 survivors of the original companies in the FTSE 100 when the index was created in 1984; Future did not yet exist. Yet Reed and Pearson both have their roots outside publishing. Future was founded in 1985 by Chris Anderson (now better known for heading up the TED talks). Future’s first title was Amstrad Action, a games magazine for owners of Alan ‘Your Fired’ Sugar’s Amstrad computers. It was produced cheaply using computer technology outside London and the company then expanded into hobbies such as cross-stitch as a self-professed ‘anorak publisher’. Pearson actually owned Future for four year from 1984.

Reed started out as a papermaker, which brought it into contact with printers, publishers and the building trade. Being a well run and profitable company, it had the cash to buy up ailing companies in these sectors, so by 1980 it controlled IPC Magazines, Mirror Group newspapers, Odhams printers, Crown wallpapers and paints, and Polycell, among others.

Financial Times eggcup photo: Pearson owned the FT from 1957 to 2015

Pearson owned the FT from 1957 to 2015

Pearson was a building contractor that evolved into an international group working for governments across the world. If you’ve ever been to Malta, some of those Valetta harbours and fortifications are of its making, as are chunks of infrastructure in New York, London, Cairo and Mexico. It was also big in oil services. In the 1950s, Pearson became a conglomerate running a portfolio of companies in five sectors: financial services, publishing, oil, manufacturing, and investment trusts. The assets included Lazard bank, the Financial Times, the Economist, Penguin, Longman, Westminster Press, Yorkshire TV, Chateau Latour, Wedgwood, Royal Doulton and Madame Tussaud’s. The only common factor was that each one was regarded as being the best in its field.

Reed and Pearson were both massive and successful companies, with market capitalisations of £2.4bn and £1.7bn respectively in 1988. However, conglomerates were out of fashion and found it hard to justify their strategies to the financial markets. They were regarded as takeover targets and Pearson was described as a ‘collection of rich man’s baubles’. They decided to change their strategies and concentrate on media – both were founder investors in British Satellite Broadcasting in 1989. However, they met with very different results.

All change in 1990s media

The May 1994 first issue of Loaded - a landmark title under James Brown

The May 1994 first issue of Loaded – a landmark title under James Brown

Reed sold its building divisions, newspapers and print plants; out went book publishing and IPC, publisher of iconic magazines such as Country Life, NME, Woman’s Own and Loaded. By 1990, it had changed analysts’ views – they regarded its share price of 443p as undervaluing the company compared with other international publishing businesses. It then merged with Elsevier, a Dutch professional publishing group, and concentrated on information and data that could be sold internationally over digital networks at high prices.  It moved up the ‘value pyramid’ in marketing jargon, away from high volume, low value fiction paperbacks and weekly magazines into expensive, global professional information and data. The nearest it kept to a consumer magazine was Reed Business Media and New Scientist – and that went in 2017. The strategy was a great success and Relx, as the company is now known, has a market capitalisation of £37bn and employs 30,000 people. Its share price is 1,905p and it is ranked 15 in the FTSE 100.

Penguin logo: Penguin was controlled by Pearson from 1970 to 2013

Penguin was controlled by Pearson from 1970 to 2013

Pearson sold Penguin and its other consumer imprints to concentrate on academic and educational publishing, and the FT and Economist. The strategy worked and by 1990 its shares were at 777p. The share price shot through the roof in the ‘dotcom boom‘ of 2000 – peaking at about £24 – because the company was seen as a ‘digital play’ for investors. But that bubble popped. The company’s valuation recovered to about £14 under former Economist publisher Marjorie Scardino as she pursued a ‘learning company’ strategy, but has since bombed under her successor John Fallon. He sold the FT and Economist to focus even more on education and testing, but exposed the company to falling sales as students and schools in the US cut back on buying books, its digital distribution did not take off and the share price dropped like a stone. Today, Pearson has a market capitalisation of £5bn and employs 24,000 people. Its share price is 634p, and it has dropped to 96th in the FTSE 100.

So, in 1980 Reed had a market capitalisation half as big again as Pearson’s; 30 years later it is seven times as big. Two conglomerates tried to focus on digital media, Reed executed the strategy far better.

So, what about Future?

Amstrad Action magazine first issue cover: Future's first title magazine in 1985

Amstrad Action was Future’s first magazine in 1985

Future is a minnow compared with these two, just 40 years old with a market capitalisation of £1.4bn and 1,200 employees. It went through the dotcom bubble – publishing Business 2.0, which mapped the hopes for the ‘new economy’ – and nearly became a cropper through over-expansion and reliance on the US economy.

However, it now has a similar level of turnover per employee as Reed. Does Future really have the skills and resources to exploit the historic shift being forced on periodical publishing by digital media? Investors think so. Future’s share price tripled in 2019 because they reckon it can buy up moribund print magazines and turn them into digital goldmines. That’s what Future says it will do with the 35 magazines and six websites it has bought from TI Media. What do you think?

 

Women war reporters and ‘immersion journalism’

January 5, 2017
A glamorous female war correspondent similar to Martha Gellhorn shown in a 1946 issue of Woman magazine

A glamorous British female war correspondent similar to Martha Gellhorn shown in a 1945 issue of Woman magazine

The International Association for Literary Journalism Studies (IALJS) has some cracking meetings – gonzo journalism being a recent subject – and the next one is about ‘immersion journalism’. It is, they say, what Martha Gellhorn, a US war reporter for the US weekly magazine Collier’s during the Second World War, would have called ‘the view from the ground’.

The concept of the female war correspondent dates back at least to Sarah Wilson and Elizabeth Charlotte Briggs, who reported on the Boer Wars in the 1890s for the Daily Mail and Morning Post newspapers, respectively.

Gellhorn began writing in the 1920s and then went with Ernest Hemingway in 1936 to cover the Spanish Civil War. She married him in 1940, but they split up five years later. The Spanish conflict was the start of a career that saw her flying off to cover just about every war she could find until she developed cancer and later killed herself in 1998. Another American woman famous in the role was Lee Miller. She did so as a photographer, at first as a freelance and then from 1940 for Vogue. She was famously pictured soaping herself in Hitler’s bath. After the war, she married the artist Roland Penrose and settled in Britain.

Parisian glamour for British readers in a wartime Woman magazine

Parisian glamour for British readers in a wartime Woman magazine

These female correspondents were glamorous figures, and were depicted in a short story, ‘No Other Love’ by Leonie Mason (a pseudonym of Winifred Walker), in Woman in February 1945. The illustration, credited to ‘Koolman: Carlton’, shows two women in a Paris café. One is in uniform with the designation ‘Official War Correspondent’ on her shoulder; she is ‘Julie Wilson’ a British reporter for a paper called the Daily Record (there was then, and still is, a Glasgow paper of that name). On the table between them alongside what look like coffees in tall glasses with metal holders is a packet of Lucky Strike cigarettes, a US brand relaunched in 1942 with a white packet designed by Raymond Loewy to appeal to women.

In Leonie Mason's short story, Julie Wilson is an official war correspondent

In Leonie Mason’s short story, Julie Wilson is an official war correspondent

Gellhorn wrote reports and fiction for magazines throughout the war and after, with her short stories being published in both Britain and, the US. As I show in my book, British Magazine Design, ‘The Long Journey’, for example, was published in the June 1952 issue of Good Housekeeping and then Woman’s Own (December 4). Other examples have titles such as ‘Come Ahead, Adolf!’ (Collier’s, Aug 6, 1938); ‘Dachau: Experimental Murder’ (Collier’s, Jun 23 1945); ‘Java journey’ (Saturday Evening Post, Jun 1, 1946); and ‘The Lowest Trees Have Tops’ (Ladies’ Home Journal, Aug 1967). The Fiction Mags Index has a substantial list.

French coffee and Lucky Strike cigarettes would have been luxuries in wartime Britain - rationing would not end until 1952

Coffee and Lucky Strike cigarettes – luxuries in wartime Britain, where rationing would not end until 1952

As the literary journalism academics explain, such work ‘uses in-depth, on-the-scene reporting, research and literary techniques to take readers into worlds that would otherwise be off limits’. They also give a more technical definition:

Immersion attempts to address the limits of conventional reporting by replacing the emphasis on deadlines and objectivity with long-term observation and the building of enduring — and often psychologically and dramatically complex — reporter-source relationships.
Immersion practices link literary journalism to other disciplines, primarily anthropology and sociology, with their emphasis on the role of the participant observer and “thick” description techniques used in ethnographies.
Historically, immersion journalism often imbued reporters with a distinct moral authority to call for social reforms. Current discussions of immersion techniques highlight the ethical dilemmas of being part of the story, the quest for authenticity, and the necessity of finding narrative in the “every day-ness” of immersion. The economics of the news business also factor in. How can journalism now afford the time and resource-intense practice of immersion? How will traditional immersion techniques fare in contrast to new technologies of interactivity and virtual reality that purport to give the reader an “immersive” experience?
Immersion also presents a challenge to the pedagogy of literary journalism. What practices are best for teaching immersion, particularly given that few students will have the schedule and financial support to attempt it?

The IALJS sessions will take place at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications in the US city of Chicago on August 9-12. It is titled ‘The View from the Ground: Rethinking Immersion.’ The editors are seeking academic submissions.

Women’s magazines – a 5-volume history on the way

December 9, 2016
Cover of Womens Periodicals and Culture from Edinburgh University Press

Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture to come from Edinburgh University Press

Edinburgh University Press is working on a five-volume series edited by Jackie Jones with the title ‘The Edinburgh History of Women’s Periodical Culture in Britain’. The series aims ‘to make a particular contribution to the “turn” to periodical studies over the last decade by giving due prominence to the history of women’s periodical culture in Britain’.

Due out next autumn is Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1918-1939: The Interwar Period. This is being edited by Catherine Clay (Nottingham Trent University), Maria DiCenzo (Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada), Barbara Green (University of Notre Dame in the US) and Fiona Hackney (formerly Falmouth, now at Wolverhampton University). The press’s catalogue describes the volume:

New perspectives on women’s print media in interwar Britain by experts in media, literary and cultural history. This collection of new essays recovers and explores a neglected archive of women’s print media and dispels the myth of the interwar decades as a retreat to ‘home and duty’ for women. Women produced magazines and periodicals ranging in forms and appeal from highbrow to popular, private circulation to mass-market and radical to reactionary. The 1920s and 1930s gave rise to a plurality of new challenges and opportunities for women as consumers, workers and citizens, as well as wives and mothers. By restoring to view and analysing the print media which served as the vehicles for debates about the arts, modern life, politics, economics and women’s roles in all these spheres, this collection makes a major contribution to revisionist scholarship on the interwar period.

The book’s cover shows an issue of Woman’s Outlook, a magazine produced from 1919 to 1967 by the Co-operative Women’s Guild in Manchester.
October 2017; 448 pages; 44 b&w illustrations; 16 colour illustrations; hardback 978 1 4744 1253 7; £150.

New Zealand makes itself felt

December 5, 2016

I keep noticing New Zealand coming more and more on to the magazine and design map. First, there was Revolutions from Grub Street, the first comprehensive business history of Britain’s consumer magazine history by Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt. Although Howard is in the UK (he’s professor of international business history at Worcester Business School), Simon hails from the School of Art & Design at Auckland University of Technology (or Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau, as they say down there).

Then, there was a recent talk at St Bride’s by Kris Sowersby, the Kiwi typographer who developed the typeface for the most recent redesign at the Financial Times.

And there was an excellent lecture on strikers’ newsletters during a 1950s waterfront dispute at the Printers Unite! conference last month by Patricia Thomas from Massey University in Wellington.

Finally, tomorrow is the launch of Back Story, the Journal of New Zealand Art, Media and Design History. Simon Mowatt is one of the leading light in that too.

OUP offers cut-price magazine history book

July 29, 2016

OUP revolutions from Grub Street - magazine history

Oxford University Press has a summer sale offering Cox and Mowatt’s Revolutions from Grub Street: A History of Magazine Publishing in Britain for a fiver off at £14.99 for the paperback. The hardback edition is half price at £18.75. OUP has several other titles covering magazines and literature, from literary theory to Playboy, a few of which are also in the sale.

 

 

 

Teaching history with tentacles

December 2, 2015
Postcard about Landlordism in London in 1928

Postcard about Landlordism in London in 1928 – a topic that rings bells today with the state of the capital’s property market

Donna Seger’s post about teaching world history using octopus maps caught my attention, with its copious images like the one above from books and magazines, as well as maps and postcards, and has links to other octopus articles (tentacles across the web, clearly).

Much more fun than some of the infographics that litter many magazines and newspapers but require so much work to get anything out of.

>>A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn (May 2016)

A typeface for the Magna Carta

May 7, 2015
Detail from the Magna Carta embroidery at the British Library by Cornelia Parker

Detail from the Magna Carta embroidery at the British Library by Cornelia Parker

The British Library is running events to celebrate 800 years of one of the most famous documents in the world, the Magna Carta. Material to support the events includes commissioned articles by experts, videos and animations, teaching resources for schools – and an embroidery by Cornelia Parker at the library’s main site between London’s Euston and King’s Cross stations.

Front page from Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, in 1911

Front page from Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, in 1911

One of the exhibits is this front page from Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which was started by Emmeline Pankhurst, in 1911. The WSPU was one of the main campaign groups for women’s suffrage. The BL website explains:

By claiming Magna Carta to be the product of aggression, both the artist Alfred Pearse (1855-1933; under the pseudonym ‘A Patriot’) and essayist Joseph Clayton legitimised the suffragettes’ use of direct action. The front page image of King John was pasted into this scrapbook owned by the suffragette, Maud Arncliffe Sennett (1862-1936). 11 months later, Sennett herself was prosecuted for breaking the windows of the offices of the Daily Mail, because the newspaper had failed to report the holding of a WSPU rally.

The suffrage movement pulled in its horns for the most part four years later and women played a vital role in the Great War, both on the Western Front – in some cases deceiving the authorities so they could tend the wounded close to the font lines – and at home, whether in munitions factories, on the land or as bus conductors. Pankhurst’s determination was noted in a 1915 postcard. It showed an officer telling Lord Kitchener, the secretary for war:

‘My Lord, it is reported that the Germans are going to disembark at Dover!’
Kitchener replies:
‘Very Well! Phone Mrs Pankhurst to go there with some suffragettes, and that will do!’

Afterwards, some women were granted the vote. It took another 10 years for all women to get the vote, however.

Women at War – as portrayed in magazines of the day

At last, a history of magazines

May 28, 2014
grub_street_book_cover

The jacket of ‘Grub Street’ shows George Newnes’ ‘Strand’, with its long-lived George Haité cover design, on an iPad

There has long been a gap when it comes to books about magazines in that there has been no substantial history of the industry. That is not to say there are no books that include elements of that history, but the academics Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt are the first authors to take on the complete story, at least for consumer magazines, with Revolutions from Grub Street.

The book takes as its starting point the days of Grub Street – once a real street in London’s Moorfields that by 1630 had given its name to an area where hack writers lived. Grub Street was ‘much inhabited by writers of small histories, dictionaries, and temporary poems’, according to Samuel Johnson in his Dictionary of 1775, and is today Milton Street.

Dr Johnson and his fellow hacks aspired to move closer to the publishers that employed them, in the centre of the printing and publishing industry around St Paul’s Cathedral. By 1882, Fleet Street had taken over as a shorthand for the ‘whole spirit of the English Press’. Johnson himself moved to Gough Square at the north end of Wine Office Court, an alley that runs from Fleet Street up the side of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub (rebuilt in 1667, having been burnt down the year before in the Great Fire of London).

Fleet Street came to embody the publishing industry because it led to where printing had been established. Wynkyn de Worde had moved Caxton’s printing press to set up a print shop in Shoe Lane after the latter’s death in about 1500. The site is marked by a plaque at the livery hall of the Worshipful Company of Stationers (itself rebuilt after the Great Fire) on Ave Maria Lane, near St Paul’s.

Cox and Mowatt have written a densly-referenced but brisk summary of almost 400 years of magazine-making, of clear interest to academics and researchers in business and strategy. Both authors specialise in business history and Cox wrote The Global Cigarette for OUP. They collaborated on a  paper, ‘Networks, Relational Assets and the Internationalisation of Consumer Magazine Publishing‘, the theme of which contributes to this book. They describe how magazine publishing companies developed from the Grub St era by exploiting developments, first in letterpress printing on exemplars such as the Family Herald, and then powered machinery, to meet the demand for popular reading matter from an expanding, and more literate, population.

Penny weeklies and sixpenny monthlies leapt at the opportunity provided by illustrations, famously by Punch and Illustrated London News with their upmarket fare for the middle classes. In 1881, came the publishing sensation of George Newnes’ Tit-Bits, which used innovative journalistic and marketing techniques to help establish strategies for the million-selling popular weekly. Alongside Arthur Pearson and Alfred Harmsworth, these magazine publishers evolved into the massive press baronies of the 20th century that made Fleet Street famous across the world. Grub Street concludes by charting events since the mid-20th century three-way merger that created the giant IPC, and the factors through to the present day that saw it lose its near-monopoly position – but it and its rivals run into the challenge of today’s digital competition.

The book bases its story on events in company structures and the development of the unions, as well as technology. It is weaker on the influence of specific titles and individuals; for example, Stefan Lorant (Pictorial Weekly, Lilliput and Picture Post) is barely mentioned (and his name is mis-spelt). Also, it has a limited scope, focusing on mainstream consumer publishers and rarely touching on trade magazines, newspaper supplements and contract magazines.

However, Grub Street will  at last enable course leaders on magazine journalism and publishing courses to address a gaping hole in their syllabuses.

Revolutions from Grub Street: A history of magazine publishing in Britain by Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt, Oxford University Press, 288 pages, £35

LCC shows off in Shoreditch

July 19, 2011

Wednesday July 20 is the night for MA publishing students from London College of Communication to show their wares at the Book Club in Shoreditch. Starts 6.30, ends late and entry is free. LCC used to be the London College of Printing (LCP) – and, as a former lecturer who ran such courses and now assessses and advises on them, I’ve always like Neville Brody‘s quote: ‘I hated my time at LCP, but I value it.’

Curating, editing – what happened to conducting?

May 5, 2011

Tyler Brule regards himself as a curator at Monocle. And Rick Poynor has chosen to entitle his talk tomorrow (Friday, May 6) at St Bride’s ‘Is Curating the New Editing?’ The founding editor of Eye has done enough writing and editing to perhaps shed some light on why the word has become topical.

He may also have an idea as to why ‘conducting’ died out as a term for the task of running magazines. It was used into the Edwardian era but disappeared from view. For example, the first issue of weekly Edwardian favourite London Opinion was ‘conducted’ by A. Moreton Mandeville.

Poynor is one of seven St Bride speakers at Graphic Design: History in the Making, which is moderated by David Crowley from the Royal College of Art and Teal Triggs from the London College of Communication (and author of Fanzines). The others are Christopher Burke, Sonia de Puineuf, Alston W. Purvis, David Reinfurt and Catherine de Smet.